Dover, Del., January 13, 2010 – Delaware is participating in a 3-year U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot project to determine if high tunnels - also known as hoop houses - are effective in reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, improving plant and soil quality and providing other benefits to growers.
Delaware producers may apply for the pilot project through their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Service Center. Successful applicants are eligible to receive financial assistance for a maximum of 2,178 ft of high tunnels per farm. Funding is provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program. Applications for 2010 must be received by February 5, 2010.
Delaware is one of 40 states to participate in the new pilot project. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the new pilot project under the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Merrigan and other Obama administration officials highlighted opportunities available for producers in a video posted on USDA's YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07vtMJgp0no, which shows high tunnels recently installed in the White House garden.
"There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops - a win for producers and consumers," said Merrigan. "This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations.”
High tunnels have been advantageous to owners of small farms, limited-resource farmers, and organic producers in extending growing seasons and aiding to provide steady incomes to farmers and farm workers. Made of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move.
To sign up or learn more about EQIP or AMA assistance for high tunnel projects, contact your local USDA Service Center or visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov. In Sussex, call 302-856-3990 x3; in Kent, call 302-741-2600 x3; and in New Castle, call 302-832-3100 x3.
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